There’s a lot happening in the NBA right now: the trade deadline is upon us on Thursday, the playoff race is heating up a few degrees as we zip toward the home stretch and NBA All-Star Weekend is just a week away.
In service of that, the NBA will hold its third annual NBA All-Star Draft, the second televised. LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, 2020 All-Star’s two captains, will draft teams on TNT at 7 p.m. ET. There are rules, of course: starters get picked first, then reserves. LeBron has the first pick for starters. Giannis picks first for reserves. Trades are apparently allowed, based on last season.
I have my war room and my big board ready to go. And here’s what I think is going to happen Thursday night. Let’s mock.
1. Team LeBron: Anthony Davis
This is a no-brainer unless LeBron plays a practical joke on Davis by taking someone else for giggles.
2. Team Giannis: Luka Doncic
This is a reminder that James Harden went very late in the starters’ draft last year (seventh out of eight) and that it seems like perhaps Antetokounmpo doesn’t really have a lot of love lost for The Beard given the way that officials in Houston talk about him and his 2019-20 NBA MVP award. Giannis needs a playmaker and is probably drawn to a young European star.
3. Team LeBron: Kawhi Leonard
LeBron sure as heck doesn’t want to be on the team playing against Kawhi, even in an exhibition.
4. Team Giannis: Joel Embiid
Giannis picked Embiid high last season, too. It’s a good grab for size, the only true center among starters.
5. Team LeBron: Kemba Walker
Kemba going over Harden is a shocker, but there’s just something about The Beard that makes him a lower prospect in these sorts of endeavors. I could be wrong and he could be the second player off the board. But I think I’m right and Kemba will go before him. (Kemba is freaking great.)
6. Team Giannis: Pascal Siakam
Why not go full-on Team World?
7. Team LeBron: James Harden
Finally, Harden escapes the green room.
8. Team Giannis: Trae Young
I love Trae Young. But to me, there is no question that Young will be the last starter picked. As flashy and fun as he is, he is on a different level than the rest of these nine players. No shots, but it’s true.
9. Team Giannis: Khris Middleton
Giannis picked his teammate first among reserves last season, too.
10. Team LeBron: Chris Paul
Here’s where things get interesting. Does LeBron pick one of his best friends in the world, CP3? Or does he pick a Klutch Sports client and young star he’s mentored in Ben Simmons? I think he goes with CP3 as a nod of respect to his friend’s stunning comeback.
11. Team Giannis: Damian Lillard
The best player among the reserves. Maybe the third or fourth best player in the whole All-Star Game? This is why the All-Star draft is so funny: the third or fourth best player in the game is probably the 11th pick because of RULES and because of RELATIONSHIPS. So goofy and wonderful.
12. Team LeBron: Ben Simmons
Now LeBron can claim his protegé. And keep him off of Embiid’s team. To let him flourish. HMMM.
13. Team Giannis: Nikola Jokic
Team Giannis’s international flavor reigns, and Jokic has been one of the best players in the league for about a month now. If the draft plays out like this, Team Giannis is winning.
14. Team LeBron: Jayson Tatum
Tatum has been on fire as of late as well, and while he doesn’t seem like a traditional All-Star high-scorer candidate, his excitement at playing with the legends he’ll share the court with should be really satisfying to people who like to see nice folks be excited and happy.
15. Team Giannis: Donovan Mitchell
16. Team LeBron: Brandon Ingram
17. Team Giannis: Jimmy Butler
I’m so bummed Karl-Anthony Towns isn’t an All-Star — not because he deserves it (his long injury absence and Minnesota’s downward spiral screwed that), but because Towns vs. Jimmy in this setting would be magical. Like a JV version of Westbrook vs. Durant from 2017.
18. Team LeBron: Russell Westbrook
Westbrook has literally nothing to prove for the first time in … his life? Unless he reads too many quotes about how he doesn’t deserve his All-Star spot over Devin Booker. By the way, I have Westbrook and Lillard on different teams. That ABSOLUTELY needs to happen. Maybe that’s the source of the chip on Westbrook’s shoulder this time around.
19. Team Giannis: Bam Adebayo
High potential fun for Bam as an All-Star. Also, high potential for three minutes of playing time.
20. Team LeBron: Rudy Gobert
The NBA should donate $10,000 to a charity of Rudy’s choosing for every screen assist in the All-Star Game.
21. Team Giannis: Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry absolutely deserves to be an All-Star and absolutely cannot possibly want to play in the All-Star Game.
22. Team LeBron: Domantas Sabonis
There is no chance whatsoever that Domantas Sabonis, a wonderful young player deserving of his spot in the game, will be anything but the last pick in the 2020 NBA All-Star Draft. This is LaMarcus Aldridge Memorial All-Star Roster Spot. Someone make Domas a plaque.